Having massively enjoyed my last outing to invade Earth as an alien, last Saturday I once again headed down to the Camden Centre to take part in the Megagame Watch the Skies 3 and abduct humans in the name of science/diplomacy/cheap labour/intergalactic cuisine.
Whereas last time I had visited Earth as the Commander of the Federation (who are essentially a race of peaceful and hedonistic space-hippies) this time I would be an Agent on the Association mission to Solaris. In contrast the Association are an aggressive and militaristic civilisation so I was looking forward to a more straight forward approach to dealing with the Earthlings involving less talking and more shooting.
Our team went into the game with a few objectives. The first was to get as much native art and technology and as much exotic flora and fauna off the planet as we could. The second was to develop productive and peaceful relations with the cetaceans (dolphins and whales), who would in this game be represented by two full teams of players. The third was to make sure the humans didn’t leave the planet or get their hands on any alien technology. Finally (although not officially in our briefing) we decided we wanted to get a proper interstellar warship deployed to the sector as soon as possible. We felt the Association would feel more comfortable (and be more used to) negotiating from a position where we had enough fire power behind us to wipe a city the size of Tokyo off the map.
This brings me to the final point I should cover before I start my account of the day – which is that the events in this game were taking place a few years after the events of Watch the Skies 2. This meant that a few of the main events from the last game had been written into the canon for this world. For example:
1) Tokyo was starting the game as a smoking pile of rubble,
2) The cetaceans were a playable race, and
3) The humans already knew that aliens existed and each alien faction had a list of a few nations that they’d already made some contact with.
When the game kicked off we quickly realised most of the plans we’d made were not going to survive contact with faux-reality. As part of our efforts to ally with the cetaceans we’d been planning to build a base not on the moon, as is traditional for any self-respecting alien race, but underwater. We’d also planned to lend the cetaceans our terraforming technology to help them flood the planet and make it more habitable for them and less suitable for those nasty warlike humans.
Unfortunately we were quickly informed by our High Command (Control) that while we could deploy small pieces of terraforming technology to help clean up pollution there was no way they were going to authorise a full scale terraforming operation to change the fundamental nature of the planet (fair enough, flooding the planet wouldn’t have been much fun for the human players). Meanwhile the scientific team attached to our expedition (again Control) advised that while an underwater base was possible it would be much more expensive, take longer to build and require help from them cetaceans. As waiting for several turns before having a secondary base would greatly limit how many shuttles we could send down on missions we decided to settle for a standard moon base like all the other factions.
Our first few turns were relatively uneventful. Chris, our other agent, established diplomatic relations with Mexico, Brazil (and later Canada) and quickly came to an understanding where they would not interfere with our missions in neighbouring Latin American countries where we were hoping to gather a large amounts of flora and fauna. They also seemed very understanding about our need to acquire humans subjects for important scientific purposes.
Jyoti, our Fleet Liaison and deputy Commander, was scouting out Europe for cultural artefact and fighting off a very aggressive European military, who seemed intent on shooting every alien ship out of the sky like some kind of tech pinata.
James, our Commander, had joined our alien neighbours in a Galactic Council to ensure all the civilised nations spoke to each other and didn’t start fighting due to a simple lack of communication. He also established a strong bilateral relationship with the Imperium that would serve us well for the rest of the game.
Meanwhile I made contact with the cetaceans. They were not having a good time; the humans were pumping pollution into the oceans and they were having difficulty understanding concepts like “trade’, ‘ownership’ and ‘territory’ that their whale philosophers seemed to think were cornerstones of the human world view. They were also keen for any intelligence we could provide about events above sea level. This seemed like something we could easily source so we ‘converted’ some of the humans we’d borrowed from Latin America into a level of ‘Native Knowledge and Technology’ in exchange for samples of exotic marine wildlife and some crustal minerals and red mercury that they’d found under the waves.
The European Problem
It turned out that we weren’t the only faction having problems with Europe. Some nefarious European powers had been inviting down diplomats from the civilised powers and then shooting at them. This was clearly unacceptable behaviour and I felt we needed to send Europe a strong message that such actions would not go unpunished. Also the Republic had had a ship shot down over Russia and were worried about them exploiting it to develop space travel technology.
While I was in favour of making a few terror raids, a consensus was reached at the Council to shoot down all the satellites above Europe and to raid Moscow to get back as much technology as possible. Results were mixed. We shot down half the satellites against strong resistance (it would have been more if I’d managed to roll something other than a one) and the Conglomerate abducted all the astronauts from the International Space Station. While the Republic’s salvage mission got passed the Russian interceptors the research facility was too well guarded for them to retrieve the technology so they left without achieving much. Meanwhile as the Reticulans (a largely peaceful scientific race) has sent down a message explaining why we were shooting down the satellites they ended up getting all the blame for the operation in the press.
Astro-aquatic engineering and the world’s dodgiest charity
Meanwhile negotiations with the cetacean were going well, every turn I was popping down in a shuttle to a remote corner of the south Pacific to make nice and pickup the latest collection of items the dolphins didn’t know what to do with. This couldn’t last forever and soon the dolphins came forward with a request – they wanted to go into space. This seemed like too excellent a request not to help with, also I figured if things went well we could relocate them to another water-based planet we were looking to exploit. I then spent quite a lot of time, and an almost immoral amount of resources (including using the Reticulan Great Minds (massively powerful AI computers) as design consultants) to build a dolphin module to attach to our flying saucers which would allow them to make short trips into space to socialise with the other civilised nations.
During one of my trips down to Earth to update the cetaceans on the construction process I was introduced to an individual from Greenpeace who was able to speak cetacean, claimed to be able to provide information on which human nations were building spaceflight tech and wanted to come up to meet some aliens. This was, frankly, an odd combination of skills, knowledge and desires to find in one individual but I got agreement to bring them up to speak to the Council. However as I was leaving one of the dolphins took me to one side to say that the man from Greenpeace was making them feel “nervous”, not the reaction I think that organisation would like to illicit from the beings it was established to help.
Still our Greenpeace representative spoke to the Council, everyone agreed afterward that something very dodgy was going on, especially when they announced they’d happily see humanity extinct in favour of the cetaceans. In the end we agreed it probably wasn’t worth engaging with them any further. A feeling that was confirmed next time I met our Greenpeace rep and they said that they’d found the journey to space “painful” and would like the Council to come down to visit them. This was filed under “extremely dodgy”. We were all worried about walking into a hostage situation and so this request was promptly ignored, meaning that for the rest of the game I was faced with increasingly irritated Greenpeace lobbying every time I went down to speak to our aquatic allies.
The faults in our stars
It was around this time that the general atmosphere of peace and co-operation at the Galactic Council began to break down. We received reports from High Command that the Conglomerate had started encroaching on our territory and there had been a few border skirmishes (turns out Control were inventing conflict between all the civilised races as we were getting on to well).
On top of that a genuine disagreement had broken out on how to best deal with the humans. Despite our best efforts (or perhaps because some people were secretly giving the humans tech) it looked like sooner or later the humans were going to gain spaceflight technology (which was being made easier by the fact the Conglomerate had built some kind of spaceport above Egypt). We suggested bringing in a Cruiser (medium-sized ship, capable of destroying cities) to established a blockade of Solarius to stop any native build ships leaving the sector. We agreed to provide this ship ourselves, paid for by contribution from all the other races and hand it over to Galactic Council control. Unfortunately the Federation were not happy with this (being much more pro-human than most of the other factions) and declared that they were going to bring their own ship in. Because of this, and the fact that other faction contributions to the cost of the ship were marginal, when our Cruiser turned up we decided not to hand it over to the Council. Soon all the civilised races were racing to bring their own heavy artillery into the skies above earth.
So long and thanks for all the fish
While this was going on I was still hard at work with my dolphin diplomacy. Our initial plan to adapt alien communication tech to allow the dolphins to “sing” about their plight to the rest of the planet failed when we couldn’t get the tech to work (Control made it very clear that no-one was going to be allowed to use the megaphone to address all players). So instead my dolphin pal and I strong armed our way into a meeting between the Galactic Council and the UN to try to get the humans to take some meaningful action. This didn’t go well; despite some warm words about how much they were already doing to fix global pollution the UN didn’t really seem committed to addressing the cetaceans concerns and at one point admitted they were powerless to force human nations to actually do anything. Thoroughly depressed by the tone of the meeting the cetaceans asked if I could arrange for them all to leave the planet and find a new home amongst the stars.
I went back to High Command to see what could be done. After some initial uncertainty I was sent to make my case to the highest possible authority (Jim Wallman – the game’s designer). I half expected this to go the same way as my plan to terraform Earth or broadcast whalesong to all the native players. Thankfully Jim was in a generous mood and decided that yes, if we spent enough resources we could convert a transport ship into a flying aquarium that could carry about 1000 of each of the main cetacean species. This process would take a year (4 in game turns) so this wasn’t going to happen before we ran out of time but I didn’t care – I paid the required resources, told the dolphins and whales we were taking them to a new home and announced our plan to the press. Now all we had to do was survive until the end of the game (and a bit longer) to allow our ship to turn up, and I’d have met my self-created win-condition. How hard could that be…
Turns out quite hard, as things were not going well with the Galactic Council. The Federation had now been kicked out of the Council by the Reticulans, who had then left the Council themselves as they were unable to maintain order between the remaining 5 civilisations. We had formed a full blown alliance with the Imperium based around the need to contain the humans on Earth, and were pooling our resources to get as much of our combined space armada above Solaris as soon as possible.
The Federation seemed to have joined up with the Republic who were doing the same thing in the name of protection the humans. The Commonwealth were nowhere to be seen. The Conglomerate had now blown up their own spaceport, but looked like they were going to side with the pro-human Federation. Meanwhile the Reticulans were threatening to Mind Control the Federation Fleet if it tried to open fire on the Imperium-Association Alliance (turns out the only thing they liked less than the prospect of interstellar war was the humans leaving Earth).
In an attempt to take out the Republic before the bulk of their fleet arrived the Imperium sent their fighter craft to blow up the Republic moon base, however due to a breakdown in communication (walking away from the map before Control turned up) the final command to open fire was never given. Next turn no such mistakes would be made and it looked like that a giant space battle would soon break out. Then the final whistle went. Honestly I was a bit relieved as things were clearly going to get messy, although hopefully Reticulan mind control would have turned things our way!
As is probably obvious from this account I had an amazing time again, and am definitely going to try branching out into other megagames. I want to say a massive thankyou to all the Control players for making the day work (especially Alien Control) and to all the Alien, Cetacean and “Other” players who I interacted with over the course of the day for being so much fun.
I’m going to end with 4 more snippets of things the aliens got up to which I couldn’t work into the main narrative.
- Our Fleet Liaison Officer going down to Earth to make a public safety announcement to the press about the dangers of unsupervised use of alien technology. “Unsupervised use of alien artefact may lead to sleepiness, dizziness, irritable bowels or the plasmatic bombardment of nearby populated settlements. Please do not approach and call an alien extraction team who will safely dispose of the materials”
- Our allies, the Imperium, attempting to infiltrate Israel to start a nuclear war with Iran on the bases it would then be easier to grab all the resources in the area.
- When this failed the Imperium arranged to relocate the entire population of Israel to the “promised land” in the stars, when in reality they were just going to use them as cheap slave labour in mining colonies.
- Our Commander going down to France to kidnap all the mimes on the basis that they counted as both Exotic Fauna and Native Art and therefore fulfilled two of our objectives.